East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has laughed off criticism from a constituent who called him a “loathsome little redneck”.
The DUP representative claimed the jibe came in a letter from a Whitehead resident in response to one of his weekly columns in the News Letter.
Speaking to the Times this week, Mr Wilson said: “A few weeks ago, I wrote a column in defence of Christians. This made reference to the Bishop of Down and Connor’s recent comments on abortion as well as Pastor McConnell’s comments on the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries.
“A man from Whitehead then wrote to me in response; he was outraged that anyone should hold these views and called me a ‘loathsome little redneck’.
“To me, this summarises everything I believe about those who call themselves liberal; often they cannot tolerate anyone who holds different views to them.”
Indicating that he had received more support than condemnation over the views expressed in the column, Mr Wilson added: “These sorts of comments don’t bother me at all; I’m used to them. People like that are hiding behind the cloak of liberalism and they don’t seem to recognise their own bigotry.”
The former Finance Minister likened the situation to the recent controversy over Ashers bakery.
The Christian-run business, based in Newtownabbey, came under fire earlier this month after refusing to produce a cake which carried a pro-gay marriage slogan.
The owners of the bakery have been told they now face possible prosecution by the Equality Commission for “unlawful discrimination” against the gay rights group who had made the order.
In his most recent column for the News Letter, Mr Wilson writes: “The Equality Commission’s willingness to race to the aid of this homosexual group speaks volumes about the in-built bias of this body.
“This will be the eighteenth sexual orientation case the Equality Commission has taken up since 2008 but, despite increasing discrimination against Christians in the workplace and elsewhere, it has yet to take up cudgels on behalf of Christians.
“(The Equality Commission)] has now become the blunt instrument of the thought police, bludgeoning into submission those who dare to deviate from the politically correct speech and behaviour demanded by the intolerant liberal elite who seem to hate everything that Christians stand for.
“Let us be clear about the case which is now threatened against Ashers Bakery. It is not that they refused to sell goods to a gay couple, merely that they refused to promote a message advocating gay marriage.”
Urging members of the public to “rally round” the local business, Mr Wilson added: “We need a conscience clause which exempts individuals from laws which interfere with their beliefs.”